Amazon Fire Tablet Show Mode

Amazon Echo Show Features Coming to Fire Tablets in July with Show Mode

Amazon announced this morning that Fire Tablets will soon have access to the Show Mode software update, which will add features similar to Amazon’s Echo Show smart display. The announcement of the software update is accompanied by the launch of a new Show Mode Charging Dock which automatically switches a Fire Tablet into Show Mode while charging it. The media release states:

“Show Mode lets you ask Alexa to see trending news, weather, camera feeds, and more—all glanceable whether you’re up close or across the room. Also available is the new Show Mode Charging Dock, a docking station for current generation Fire HD 8 and Fire HD 10 tablets that automatically transitions the tablet into Show Mode and holds the device at an adjustable angle while charging.”

What’s in the Box and an Intriguing Bundle

The Show Mode Charging Dock is actually two pieces, a case and stand. A micro-USB connector on the case puts the tablet automatically into Show Mode. It also has contact pins on the back that align with similar pins on the stand to enable charging while in the stand. Magnets are used to make sure the tablet aligns correctly. The stand is adjustable to provide different viewing angles which is an improvement over Echo Show’s fixed position. Show Mode Charging Docks will sell for $39.99 for 8-inch Fire HD Tablets and $49.99 for 10-inch tablets. There is a five dollar discount during the pre-order period and the product is scheduled to ship on July 12th.

More intriguing is the bundle offer of the 8-inch tablet with the Show Mode Dock for $109.98 and the 10-inch tablet starting at $189.98. Both screens are larger than the Echo Show’s 7-inch display, but the real interesting angle is the price. Echo Show has a list price of $229.99 and has recently been on sale for prices ranging from $149.99-$159.99. The 8-inch Fire HD tablet with the Show Mode Dock is selling at a 31% discount to these prices and less than half the Echo Show list price. If price is a big barrier to adoption, then this bundle may help drive sales in the smart display segment.

What’s Not in the Box

Keep in mind that Echo Show is a purpose-built device. It is designed for voice-first interaction with visual display as a complementary element. Tablets are designed for touch-first and not voice-first interaction. Fire HD tablets have been retrofitted with voice an audio features as a secondary consideration. What might be missing from the Show Mode experience?

  • Far-field microphones: This is the most critical hardware component of any voice-first device. Far-field microphones ensure users can access Alexa from across the room at a normal speaking volume. This is important both for the wake word activation and the accurate recognition of the speech. Tablets are designed for use in near-field settings–right in front of you. If far-field recognition is poor for this device, it could undermine Amazon’s efforts to promote the smart display concept.
  • Decent audio quality: Amazon stresses in its Show Mode Dock product listing, “for richer sound, connect your tablet to external speakers via Bluetooth or 3.5 mm audio cable.” You may not be enamored with the Echo Show speakers but no one will argue they are inferior to tablet-based speakers. The number one use case for smart speakers is listening to music and other audio content. External speakers are a band-aid solution, but audio quality may also undermine the perceived quality of the smart display experience. 

Voicebot has submitted some questions to Amazon about these features and others related to the Show Mode offering. This article will be updated when we learn more.

Echo Show Has Struggled to Find a Market

Amazon Echo Show launched one year ago this week and it introduced many people to the concept of multi-modal interaction that was designed as voice-first, but included a screen. Amazon Echo smart speakers provide a great voice and audio experience and Echo Show was designed to add visual elements where desirable. It is a well designed experience as Voicebot has reported in earlier reviews. However, Echo Show has not exactly been a big sales success. Only 5.9% of smart speaker owners have purchased a smart display and most of those have favored the smaller Echo Spot.

Show Mode Dock potentially expands the user based considerably. Existing Fire HD tablet owners can start using an Echo-show like experience for $40. New customers can try out the format for $110. It is unclear whether the smart display market will take off, but it is important for Amazon that is does. Multi-modal experiences with voice and visual elements are going to be an important portion of voice assistant use cases. Since Amazon doesn’t have a smartphone footprint, it must drive adoption of new devices such as Echo Show and Spot or enable consumers to use devices they already own such as tablets and televisions. We still may see an Echo Show second generation, but for now, the tablet gambit is an interesting extension of the smart display product portfolio.

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